News

Huge Turnout in City of F.C. Tuesday Reflective of National Trend

In the “Super Tuesday” Democratic primaries Tuesday, with former Vice President Joe Biden winning in Virginia statewide by a 53.3 percent margin to 23.7 percent for his primary contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, voters in the City of Falls Church responded with a near record turnout for a primary, according to City Voter Registrar David Bjerke.

With votes tabulated Tuesday night, Biden won 2,354 votes to 906 for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 881 for Sanders and 527 for Mike Bloomberg. The 4,891 total ballots cast was 48 percent of all active voters in the City.

An interesting factor was the fact that in absentee ballots cast in advance, all six frontrunner candidates were closely bunched (141 for Warren, 115 for Biden, 99 for Bloomberg, 98 for Sanders, 92 for Amy Klobuchar and 90 for Pete Buttigieg) compared to the wide margin for Biden Tuesday night (Klobuchar and Buttigieg both having dropped out last weekend to throw their support to Biden).

The pattern seemed to fit what was going on all across the U.S. Tuesday, where an enormous number of voters were energized at the last minute to get to the polls

and threw their support to Biden, compared to what had been a much more scattered field only days before.

The turning point, according to experts, was the extent of the decisiveness of Biden’s win in South Carolina last week. That was unexpected when it happened, and credit has been given to both a revival of Biden’s enthusiasm and energy levels and a key endorsement he received from South Carolina U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the top African-American elected official in the state. The result was that Biden carried every single county in South Carolina, and his landslide win was taken as a signal to step up his campaign as a more moderate alternative to Sanders.

That having occurred on Feb. 25, going into last weekend some of Biden’s key rivals for the nomination had organized major political events for the Falls Church area on the eve of this week’s “Super Tuesday” primary. Former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg held a rally at a high school football field in North Arlington where 9,000 attended, and last Friday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar held a rally for a standing-room-only crowd that piled into F.C.’s State Theatre.

Both campaigns were filled with energy and enthusiasm and large populations of avid and loyal supporters. Buttigieg had come out of nowhere to win the majority in the first primary state, Iowa, and also performed well in New Hampshire.

Klobuchar enjoyed the support of many in this area as a more moderate and electable alternative for the left-leaning Sanders.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had set up shop with her Virginia campaign office in the City of Falls Church, above the Panera on West Broad.

On the Sanders side, a rally drawing thousands had been moved from Loudoun County to Springfield at a high school football field here. A key advisor to the Sanders campaign in both 2016 and this year, Jeff Weaver, is a long time resident of the City of Falls Church who owns the popular Victory Comics store here.

Bloomberg held a big event at a private home in McLean and bought a full page ad in the News-Press with a long list of mayors from across the U.S. that endorsed him.

But in this area, the biggest list of endorsements belonged to Buttigieg, led by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, among the first in the U.S. to endorse him almost a year ago, and including State representatives Mark Keam, Adam Ebbin and Mark Levine. The News-Press in its edition last week provided Buttigieg with his only newspaper endorsement in Virginia.

So it came as a big shock last Saturday when the news hit that Buttigieg was suspending his campaign and throwing his support to Biden. The next day, Klobuchar did the same.

It became immediately clear that both the candidates were aligning with the need for the party’s more moderate wing to align behind Biden as the most viable alternative to carry the party’s mantle as opposed to Sanders.

Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar had built strong campaigns even as other hopefuls had fallen by the wayside every week in the last month. They were two of only seven among the 13 candidates who’d originally filed and qualified to be on the ballot in Virginia in January.

The effect of the transfer of support by those two campaigns to Biden was significant, experts have noted. In the case of Klobuchar, a long-time statewide leader in Minnesota, her support contributed enormously to Biden’s primary victory in her state Tuesday, especially given that Biden, himself, never campaigned there.

In the case of Buttigieg, his impact was to generate the highest level ever, according to exit polls, of LGBTQ voters last Tuesday. According to Alfronso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, LGBTQ voters as a percentage of total voters Tuesday was more than double the percentage of LGBTQ adults in the population.

In Virginia, HRC data showed that while LGBTQ people make up 3.9 percent of the adult population, 8 percent of the total votes cast were by LGBTQ persons. David said that there are 11 million LGBTQ voters in America and 57 million “equality voters” who support their civil rights issues.

Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston, Texas, who is the president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, hailed the impact of Buttigieg on the election Tuesday as one among over 180 LGBTQ candidates that her organization has endorsed for this election cycle so far.

Overall in Virginia, the voter turnout Tuesday was remarkably high, as it was across all 14 “Super Tuesday” states. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, this year over 1.3 million voters showed up at the polls, blowing past the 785,190 who showed up for the last primary in 2016 (an increase of nearly 70 percent) and even the 986,203 who showed up for the primary in 2008.

In a letter to supporters following Biden’s big day Tuesday, Buttigieg said, “I am proud to stand with Joe Biden and I’m urging everyone who came to my campaign in order to change our politics and defeat this president to support him, too.

“The only way we’ll defeat Donald Trump and deliver a better future is with a politics that gathers people together, a politics that reflects the decency of the American people. Leaders can bring out what’s worst in us or what’s best. And Joe Biden knows how to bring people in and bring the best out of them.”